History of Microsoft Windows Operating System

👤 Diwas Poudel    🕒 13 May 2022    📁 TECH

Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational technology company that is the main creator of personal computer software systems today. It was started on April 4, 1975 AD by Bill Gates and Paul G. Allen. Its headquarters are located in Redmond, Washington.

founder of microsoft

Evolution of Windows Operating System 

evolution and history of Windows OS

Also Read: Different parts of Motherboard

1 MS-DOS ( 1981 )

MS-DOS was a non-graphical, command-line operating system created by Microsoft for IBM-compatible systems. Microsoft purchased Seattle Computer Products' QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System), renamed it MS-DOS 1.0, and offered it to IBM as their next personal computer.

From 1981 until 1997, each version of MS-DOS was released, and with each upgrade, a new feature was added to fulfill the needs of its users and professional programmers alike. MS-DOS versions include: MS-DOS 1.0, MS-DOS 1.11, MS-DOS 1.14, MS-DOS 1.25, MS-DOS 2.0, MS-DOS 3.0, MS-DOS 4.0, and many more.

2 Windows 1.0 (1985)

Windows 1.0 was the first graphical OS of Microsoft, which was released on November 20, 1985. It was a 16- bit multi-tasking shell that runs on top of the existing MS-DOS installation, so we can say this OS is not a standalone Operating System. Some of the popular Windows Applications at that time are Windows Paint, Windows Write, Notepad, Card File, Calculator, and Clock.

Microsoft provides the longest supported out of all versions of Windows to Windows  1.0 for 16 years, till December 31, 2001. This version was later succeeded by Windows 2. x 

Other Facts:

Initial Cost $100
System Requirement 192 KB RAM, 256 KB Hard Disk

windows 1.0

3 Windows 2.0 ( 1987 )

Windows 2.0 is a 16-bit GUI-based OS released on December 9, 1987. Windows 2.0 allowed users to control screen layout and application windows to overlap one another( in Windows 1.0 only tiled windows are supported). It used icons to represent programs and files. I had several improvements in the user interface and memory management then preceded one.

Windows 2.0 supported the VGA display system, which allowed you to use 16 colours at 640x480 resolution. It also introduced more sophisticated keyboard shortcuts like Alt+Esc and the terminology of "Minimize" and "Maximize".It is the last version of Windows that doesn't require a hard disk.

Some application in windows 2.0 are:  Calculator(calc.exe) , Calendar (calendar.exe) , Clipboard( clipbrd.exe), Clock (clock.exe) ,a computer game of reversi, Spooler, terminal,write, program information file editor (pifedit.exe) , control panel (control.exe), Raster graphic editor (paint.exe).

Succeeded by: Windows 2.1x (1998)

4 Windows 2.1x (1998)

Windows 2.1x supported the Windows/286 processor, but to keep updated over time, Windows 2.1x developed a windows/386 processor to support the new 386 processor.

Note: Windows/386 could run multiple DOS applications simultaneously in the extended memory that Windows/286 can't do. Windows/386 is much more advanced. It introduced a protected mode kernel(ie . It allows system software to use features such as virtual memory, paging, and safe multi-tasking designed to increase an operating system's control over application software), above which the GUI and applications run as a virtual 8086 mode task. It allows several MS-DOS programs to run in parallel in "virtual 8086" CPU mode, rather than always suspending background applications.

windows 386

5 Windows 3.0

Windows 3.0 is also a graphical version of windows and was considered as a third major released version at that time. It was released on May 22, 1990. From a commercial point of view, this os is the first success for Microsoft. Critical Windows operation is now re-written in Assembly which makes this OS even faster and lighter than the previous OS. This OS also has introduced two main features, are VGA and virtual memory system which adds flexibility to the system.

Other Facts

Initial Cost $100
System Requirement 512 KB RAM, 7 MB Hard Disk

6 Windows 3.1

Windows 3.1 was released on April 6, 1992 AD with the following features which is not present in the previous Windows version. It can operate in a 16-bit environment.

Other Facts

Initial Cost $100
Min. Hardware Requirement 1 MB RAM, 16 MB Hard Disk

Some of the features are :

  • True Type font support: This type of font offered various font developers a high degree of control in a precise way of how their fonts are displayed and also at what size sizes font to display.
  • Drop Real Mode Support: Real mode support which is present in the previous version of windows was removed because real mode does not support memory protection, multitasking, and code privilege levels.
  • Windows Registry: Windows 3.1 also introduced the Windows Registry, which is a centralized database of settings, information, and values for software and hardware installed on windows os.
  • Can run the program via command prompt
  • Windows 3.1 can access theoretically 4 GB memory in 386 Enhanced Mode whereas the previous version can just up to 16MB maximum memory.

7 Windows 95 

Windows 95 is a successor of Windows 3.1x. It was the first operating system in the 9x family and was released in August 1995. It is a 32 bit self-contained OS.

Other Facts:

Initial Cost $100
Min. Hardware Requirement 4 MB RAM, 50 MB Hard Disk

windows 95 home screenSome of the important features of Windows 95 are:

  • Windows 95 allows us to write the name of the file with 255 characters along with mixed cases (upper and lower case both).
  • Windows 95  allows preemptively multitasked protected-mode 32 bit and MS-DOS-based applications. So, it can run multiple programs at once. Not only this, it can run both 16 and 32-bit
    application at once.
  • Windows Internet Explorer or Microsoft Internet Explorer was included as a part of Windows 1995.
  • Introduction of Taskbar and Start Button.
  • "plug and play" hardware compatibility has been added for both portable and desktop systems.  Just plug the hardware into the system then Windows 95 will automatically install proper hardware for it. It can run the old software of Windows 3.1x as well.
  • Expanded memory limitation.
  • Provides power management support ie. APM (Advance power management) support for a laptop computer.
  • Support for server-based validation of the login process.
  • Property sheets replace PIF(Program Information Files which is an executable file) files(previously used in Windows 3.1) in Windows 95
  • Other miscellaneous abilities added in Windows 95 are built-in dial-up networking for the Internet,  improved sound and video performance,super-fast video performance features added and the new Microsoft Exchange electronic communication abilities are added.
Also Read: What is PCI chip, PCI Slots, PCIe Slots and Chips ?

8 Windows 98

Windows 98 is a successor of Windows 98. It was the one operating system in the 9x family and was released on June 25, 1998, on market. Blue Screen Of Death, a famous fatal error seems to be first in Windows 98. It often led to users rebooting their system and losing an unsaved job.

Other Facts:

Initial Cost $109
System Requirement 16 MB RAM, 500 MB Hard Disk

Some Improvements and Features of Windows 98 are:

  • It is better than Windows 95. Windows98 supports more than 1900 current hardware systems internally and has passed the compatibility test with over 3500 common software.
  • Windows98 offers new tools like Microsoft Magnifier, Accessibility Wizard, and Microsoft Active Accessibility
  • Windows 98 has introduced a new HTML-based help function with 15 problem-solving wizards.
  • In Notepad, users can set the font.
  • GIF transparency is supported by Microsoft Paint.
  • A TCP / IP link technique is supported by HyperTerminal and can be used as a Telnet Client.
  • Windows 98 is more robust than Windows 95 in registry handling to prevent corruption and several improvements are made to remove constraints and enhance registration efficiency.
  • All parts of making the desktop a dial-up Server were included in Windows98.
  • Windows98 is supporting a built-in Power Interface and Advanced Configuration ports to enable or disable your PC.

and many more 

9 Windows NT

Windows NT's first version was Windows NT 3.1 which was made for workstations and server pcs and was released on July 27, 1993 AD. The operating system was supplied with both Windows NT Workstation and Windows NT Server versions in two editions. Windows NT Workstation, which is simply called Windows NT, has been intended to serve as a client workstation, while Windows NT is a network server.

The following are 4 variants of Windows NT:

  • Windows NT 3.1 (July 1993) – Workstation, Advanced server
  • Windows NT 3.5 (September 1994) - Workstation, Server
  • Windows NT 3.51 (May 1995) - Workstation, Server
  • Windows NT 4.0 (July 1996) - Workstation, Server, Server Enterprise Edition, Terminal Server, Embedded

Some of the renowned features of Windows NT are:

  • Windows NT family has launched a default NTFS file system that improves disk performance, automatically recovers from disk flaws, supports large-sized hard disk drives, proper disk space utilization provides protection by authorizing and encrypting the data, etc.
  • It is a multi-user and processor-independent operating system.
  • Windows NT supports preemptive multi-tasking features to share the operating system and hardware resources across all computer programs.
  • It supports a number of hardware systems like RISC(Reduced Instruction Set Computer) systems like PowerPC Processor, Alpha AXP, MIPS R4x00, and CISC(Complex Instruction Set Computing) systems like a Pentium based system of Intel.
Also Read: What is OEM in Windows? OEM Windows OS vs Retail OS

10 Windows 2000

After a different version of Windows NT, Windows 2000 was released. It was released on February 17, 2000It is the successor of Windows NT 4.0.

Other Facts:

Initial Cost $319
System Requirement 32 MB RAM, 650 MB Hard Disk


 Also Read: How to find crash and error logs and location in Windows 10?

11 Windows ME

Windows ME is a short form of Windows Millennium Edition which was released on June 19, 2000, by Microsoft Corporation and it was the last OS for Windows 9x family. Microsoft has released Windows ME for the replacement of Windows 98.

Other Facts:

Initial Cost $109
System Requirement 32 MB RAM, 320 MB Hard Disk

Some of the important features added in Windows ME are:

  • System Restore Tool: Help to restore the system to the previous stable state of Windows.
  • Automatic Windows Update: It included a new function called "Windows Update" which downloads and installs Windows Update from Microsoft Windows Update website upgrades automatically.
  • Windows Movie Maker: It allows users to capture and edit media content.
  • Windows Image Acquisition (WIA): It allows Windows Applications to connect and communicate with devices such as digital cameras and webcams, etc.
  • Enhanced and Improved Accessibility Features: Introduced mouse control panel with the IntelliPoint feature. It helps the cursor to hide when typing and show when Ctrl is pressed.

Windows ME was one of the unstable Windows OS and was soon introduced to Windows XP.


12 Windows XP

It was released on October 25, 2001.

Other Facts:

Initial Cost $200
System Requirement 64 MB RAM, 1.5 GB Hard Disk

windowsxpSome of the Top Features of Windows XP are:

  • New Looking User Interface: The appearance of Windows XP is completely changed by using alpha compositing effects, drop shadows, and visual styles. Windows XP has added a modern subpixel rendering system called ClearType to enhance the appearance of fonts in LCDs.The Start Menu major overtake in XP for the first time at that time. And has now been updated to a two-column layout and can lists, pins, and shows regularly used applications, documents recently opened, and the standard "All Programs" cascade menu.
  • WLAN Features: When XP is loaded, most of the wireless NICs are recognized automatically by XP. The system can automatically scan for available WLAN networks and list the networks it detects. This feature was introduced in Windows XP.
  • Device Driver Rollback Features: Device Driver Rollback features were introduced in Windows XP, which allows you to return to an earlier version of the device driver when a newly installed driver has a problem.
  • Device support improvement: Windows XP has introduced USB 2.0 supports for different devices like Bluetooth, USB video device class, Windows Media Player, and imaging.
  • CD Burning: From Windows XP, users don't have to install additional software for burning files. Windows XP has these inbuilt features. It allows users to directly burn files to a compact disc through Windows Explorer.
  • Client Firewall: Windows XP now has its own Internet Connection Firewall included networking features in all network interfaces. These firewalls are hugely useful for remote users who connect to the Internet because attackers can access a corporate network easily by detecting one of these potentially easy targets.
  • Remote Desktop and Remote Assistance
    Windows XP professional OS allows using remote desktop connection features so that a person sitting at home can access
    another PC at any location remotely. Also, the Remote Assistance service was introduced which helps to get advanced technical support if the end-user is running Windows XP professionally.
    A user goes straight to Start | Help | Remote support and then can contact a technician using e-mail or Windows messaging.
Also Read: How to view and delete Instagram login history ?

Some Drawbacks of Windows XP

  • Expensive to buy
  • Bad Security
  • Supports only up to 4 GB RAM so if you run Windows XP with a 6 GB RAM system then 2 GB RAM memory will not be used.

13 Windows Vista

Windows Vista was released in November 2006 and it was the successor of Windows XP. It seems to be more secure than XP. It has various security features like parental controls, advanced firewalls, encryption features, etc.

Other Facts:

Initial Cost $399
System Requirement 512 MB RAM, 15 GB free Hard Disk space

Some new features in Windows Vista

  • Windows Aero: It was a new hardware-based graphical user interface. This new GUI includes a new glass transparencies theme, animations like Windows 3D Flip, and Taskbar live thumbnail, which is meant to be cleaner and more esthetically appealing than those of prior Screens.
  • Instant Search: There are instant search features in Windows Vista that let you find files more quickly than in the previous version.
  • Windows Defender: Windows Defender was introduced in Vista. This helps you with security on your PC.
  • Windows Mail: Windows Mail was the built-in email client which replaced outlook express. This program came with junk mail filtering and phishing filtering features to help keep users protected from unwanted messages.
  • ReadyBoost Features: This feature was introduced with Windows Vista. It uses the memory of NAND memory mass storage devices like SD cards and USB flash drives,
    which is used as a cache between an HDD and RAM and increases overall system performance.
    The performance of ReadyBoost features depends on mass storage devices' capacity and speed.
  • BitLocker DRIVE ENCRYPTION: It is a security feature introduced in Windows Vista. It helps to encrypt your disk drives and their contents. This prevents unauthorized access to the disk contents.
  • Tablet Support: Windows Vista added Tablet PC support for Business, Enterprise, Ultimate, and  Home Premium Editions.
  • Windows Gadgets: It is a widget that runs on your desktop sidebar and was introduced in Windows Vista. eg. a clock, a calendar, a rotating photo display, notes, and an RSS feed area for headlines can be used as gadgets.

Drawbacks of Windows Vista: It required high memory to run the system of that time. Nothing less than 2GB of RAM worked. Also generally required high graphics card of that time.

Also Read: How to find or check windows 10 user login history?

14 Windows 7

Windows 7 was released on July 22, 2009. Its styles and looks and the interface are somehow similar to Windows Vista. It is one of the most stable Windows OS.

Initial Cost $199
Min. Hardware Requirement 1GB RAM, 16GB free HDD Space

Some of the general features in Windows 7 are as follows :

  • Touch Screen and Sensor: Windows 7 Os is designed for touch screen interaction. According to Microsoft, if the devices support multi-touch then Windows 7 will be able to produce a touch effect on the screen. Also, Windows 7 introduce native supports for different types of sensors some of them are: accelerometer sensors, GPS sensors, and ambient light sensors.
  • Fast Boot and Installation: Windows 7 boots much faster than the previous version. Also, installation times of Windows 7 are fast and the installation process may be complete in around 30 minutes.
  • Sticky Notes: Sticky Notes features are introduced in Windows 7.
  • Power analysis and reporting: Windows 7 introduced very useful features for power analysis and reporting. You can use powercfg command.
    It helps to produce an HTML report of the energy efficiency of a computer and shows device or settings information.
  • HomeGroup Features: It is a new simple networking feature of Windows 7 which provides connects computers together on your home network to share images, music videos, documents, and printers.homenetwork
  • PowerShell: Powershell 1.x can be downloaded in earlier WIndows versions like Vista. But Powershell 2.0 comes within Windows 7, which is more flexible and powerful than 1.x

15 Windows 8

Windows 8 was released on August 1, 2012

Initial Cost: $119
Min Hardware Requirement: 1GB RAM, 16 GM RAM

16 Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 was released on August 27, 2013

Initial Cost:$199
Min. Hardware Requirement: 1GB, 16GB hard drive

17 Windows 10

Windows 10 was released on July 15, 2015

Min System Requirement:512 MB RAM, 15 GB Harddrive

18 Windows 11

Windows 11 is the latest operating system from Microsoft. It is the successor of Windows 10.

Basic System Requirements for Windows 11 are:

Storage: 64 GB or higher
Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or System on a Chip (SoC)
Firmware: UEFI, Secure Boot capable
TPM: version 2.0
Display: High definition screen (720p) with more than 9" diagonal display, 8 bits per colour channel

Source: Microsoft official site

Some of the noticeable features are :

  • Has a Mac-like Interface with the center start button and taskbar at the center.
Task bar center windows11
Fig. Taskbar Windows 11, source Wikipedia
  • You will be able to use Android apps which you can download from Microsoft Store via Amazon Appstore.
  • Widgets can be accessed from the taskbar directly. Widgets may contain weather, latest news, to-do list, calendars your recent photos, Microsoft suggested tips and info, traffic information, etc.
  • Microsoft Team comes preinstalled with Windows 11
  • All of your media playbacks can now be controlled  from the new Action Centre

History Of Windows in Server Environment

Now let's look at the history of Windows for Server use.

Windows Server

The name "Windows Server" refers to a group of Microsoft's server operating systems. They support Data storage, application development, communications etc and are used in a server. Windows Server 2003 was the first version of Windows Server to be released in 2003.(sourceWindows_Server)
The following are other versions of Windows Server:

  • Windows Server 2003
  • Windows Server 2003 R2
  • Windows Server 2008
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2016
  • Windows Server 2019
  • Windows Server 2022

Windows Home Server

As a "consumer server," Windows Home Server (WHS) was first announced in January 2007. In order to provide file sharing, automated backups, print servers, and remote access for homes with multiple connected PCs, Windows Home Server was built on top of Windows Server 2003 R2.(source)

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